According to Rowe and Frewer (2005)[1] public participation is “the practice of involving members of the public in the agenda-setting, decision-making, and policy-forming activities of organizations/institutions responsible for policy development” (ibid., p.252). In the context of geothermal energy projects, a distinction can be made between the involving persons on the participatory side, usually politics or the project management, and the side of the participants, mostly referred to as the public or citizens.

Participation in the basic module means information exchange between members of the public and members of the project. Ideally it will lead to a negotiation that mutually influences and transforms the opinions and agendas of members of both – public and project related – parties. The more genuine and thus successful participation is to become, the more it is about a redistribution of decision-making power and a say on the part of the citizens to be involved. To cite Arnstein (1969)[2]: “participation without redistribution of power is an empty and frustrating process for the participants”. In this sense, “real” participation means at least cooperative approaches including sharing of power and joint decision making, so it goes beyond the levels of (only) informing and consulting the public.

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[1] Rowe, G., & Frewer, L. J. (2005). A typology of public participation mechanisms. Science, Technology and Human Values, 30, 251-290

[2] Sherry R. Arnstein (1969). A Ladder Of Citizen Participation. Journal of the American Institute of Planners, 35:4, 216-224, DOI: 10.1080/01944366908977225